Joyful Veggie Lasagne

During these strange times I have been taking my joy where I can find it: a quiet cup of coffee with my husband in the morning, a spritz of my favourite perfume, a good box set on TV. The simplest pleasures really are bringing a little glee to my day.

Top of the list, however, for daily delectation is food. Of course.

The simple pleasure we are all exalting over this week is veggie lasagne. It’s always been a favourite in our house. There’s an almost palpable euphoria when my family come down for dinner and this little beauty is on the table.

I often make this with quorn mince as it’s the kids’ favourite. But I also love veggie lasagne made with lentils or even a couple of cans of tuna. I must admit that I have never made a meat lasagne. The veggie version is jam packed with so much flavour that even my Dad, a life long meat lover, devours this with gusto.

Veggie Lasagne

Serves 4 – 6 depending on appetite

Ingredients

For the veggie sauce

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 bag of quorn mince or about 100g lentils
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • A teaspoon of marmite (or 1/2 a veg stock cube)
  • 1 teaspoon each of sage, oregano and basil
  • A couple of large handfuls of spinach, chopped

  • About 12 – 16 lasagne sheets (I use the dried ones)

For the white sauce

  • 1.5 heaped tablespoons of cornflour
  • About 1 litre of milk
  • About 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • A couple of big handfuls of grated cheddar
  • A good grating of parmesan to finish off

Method

  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and gently fry your onion and carrots for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic and stir.
  • Tip in the quorn or lentils and stir to allow all the flavours to mingle.
  • Pour over the tomatoes and sprinkle in the herbs and marmite. Give it all a big stir then leave to simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • When the tomato sauce is just about ready, stir through the chopped spinach then turn out the heat.
  • Meanwhile preheat your oven to 180 C / gas 4 before you get on with your white sauce.
  • In a small saucepan mix your cornflour with about a tablespoon of milk. Once there are no lumps add the rest of the milk. Place your pan over a medium heat and stir, stir, stir until the sauce thickens. If you don’t keep stirring you risk a lumpy sauce.
  • Once the white sauce is thick enough, remove from the heat and add 1 handful of cheddar and a good pinch of salt. Stir.
  • Now to the assembly: pour a layer of tomato sauce into your lasagne dish followed by a little drizzle of white sauce. Then cover with a single layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat with a layer of tomato sauce, a drizzle of white sauce and a single layer of lasagne sheets until you have used up your tomato sauce.
  • Once you’ve used all of the tomato sauce place a final layer of lasagne sheets on top of everything then pour over the rest of the white sauce. Sprinkle over the remaining cheddar and grate over as much parmesan as you fancy.
  • Pop this dish of delights into the oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes.
  • You know your lasagne is ready when it’s golden and bubbling, but to be absolutely certain you can pierce with a sharp knife to check the lasagne is cooked through.
  • I like to leave it to stand for 5 – 10 minutes before cutting. This is the most difficult thing I will likely do all day as I will be desperate to dive in. Allowing your lasagne to stand makes it easier to cut into portions and also reduces the risk of you burning your mouth on the molten hot sauce. So a little restraint pays off.

Light & Lovely Veggie Carbonara

Monday evening means football training in my house so a carb packed meal is the norm. I’m surprised this carb fest carbonara hasn’t popped into my head before now. Carb by name and by nature.

Not only is this sensational plate of pasta vegetarian, it is also lighter than your more traditional carbonara style dishes. A couple of eggs and a small mountain of grated parmesan are the essence of the creamy sauce here. It tastes wonderfully indulgent and yet doesn’t hit you with the mega calories you’d be facing with a cheeky drizzle of double cream, thank you very much.

Quorn ham plays a starring role but if it’s just not your thing then simply add more veg (mushrooms would work a treat) or if the fancy takes you, try it with thinly sliced smoked salmon.

Light & Lovely Veggie Carbonara

Serves 4 people in need of a carb load

Ingredients

  • 500g packet of spaghetti
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g parmesan, grated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • A couple of handfuls of frozen peas
  • A tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • A packet of quorn ham, chopped
  • A couple of tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced and zested

Method

  • First of all get your pasta started. Cook according to packet instructions.
  • Whisk your eggs, half of the parmesan and a pinch of salt and pepper together. Leave to one side.
  • A couple of minutes before the end of the spaghetti’s cooking time, tip the peas into the pan and continue to simmer.
  • Once your pasta is cooked just the way you like it, reserve a mugful of the cooking water and then drain the spaghetti in a colander.
  • In your now empty pan, heat the oil and gently fry the garlic for a minute. Add the ‘ham’, thyme and lemon zest and stir around.
  • Turn out the heat then tumble the spaghetti back into the pan along with the reserved warm cooking water and the cheesey eggs.
  • Stir this pot of delights well and the heat from the pasta and the pan will cook the sauce quickly to perfection.
  • With a final flourish, stir in the lemon juice and the remaining parmesan.
  • Have a taste and add more seasoning if you think it needs it.
  • Serve with a big crunchy salad.

Crunchy Nutty Couscous

I’ve just eaten this for lunch and I had to share it with you. On first glance this could be a run of the mill bowl of cous cous with a bit of lettuce on the side. But look again for there are delicate surprises hidden in every delicious bite. Crunchy pistachios, cool lettuce and creamy yoghurt tangled with the subtle perfume of cumin seeds and glorious fresh mint. You had me at ‘crunchy’.

I’m a huge fan of food with plenty of texture. This healthy bowl of couscous delivers this with every crunchy mouthful. The carrots are coarsely grated so add a gentle bite but the pistachios I used were so fresh and packed a punch of a crunch. Then there’s the iceberg lettuce, surely the crispest salad leaf of them all.

I added a little dollop of lemony yoghurt and a small spoonful of my brother in law’s home made chilli jam. These are both optional so don’t feel you have to run out and buy a jar of chilli jam just for this.

I reckon some grated raw beetroot would be grand here but my son was home for lunch and he’s not keen; you could use any nuts you fancy and I dare say some crumbled feta would top this whole thing off nicely. I’m watching the calories after an indulgent few weeks (I blame the home made cakes) so the nuts were enough for me today.

Crunchy Nutty Couscous

Recipe, serves 2

Ingredients

  • 150g couscous
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 2 small carrots, coarsely grated
  • A few mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 of an iceberg lettuce, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 of a lime
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds
  • A big handful of shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons greek yoghurt
  • Zest of 1/4 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of chilli jam (optional)

Method

  • Pop your couscous in a pot with the cumin seeds and a pinch of salt and pour over boiling water, you want to cover the couscous by about 1/2cm. Cover the pot and leave it to one side while you get on with the rest.
  • If you’re making the lemony yoghurt, simply mix together the lemon zest and yoghurt and a small pinch of salt and black pepper in a small bowl.
  • Spritz the lime juice over the grated carrots and chopped lettuce (I just did this on the chopping board).
  • Once the couscous has fluffed up and absorbed all the water (about 7 minutes) gently stir through the mint, chickpeas and carrot.
  • To serve, spoon the couscous onto the plates and pop some lettuce on one side. Sprinkle over the sesame seeds and chopped pistachios. If you’re using the yoghurt and chilli jam spoon this on any way you please.
  • Dive in and get crunching.

One Pot Noodles (Not Poodles)

ONE POT NOODLES

My kids used to love a pot noodle until one day I challenged them to make their own and promised that it would taste miles better than the plastic version. Thankfully they agreed (phew, that would have been embarrassing) and now they make these all the time. They have named them, for obvious reasons, Not Poodles.

Each time they are made with slightly different ingredients, depending largely on what’s in the fridge, but also what we fancy chucking in the pot.

You could use any kind of noodles, we tend to use medium egg noodles and use veg or beef stock if you prefer. You could also add cooked chicken, tofu and any kind of veg that you love. The one thing I recommend is that you chop everything into fairly small pieces so that they fit nicely on your spoon or are easy to pick up with your chopsticks.

One Pot Noodles Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • About 700ml of stock (I use chicken)
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • About 2cm of fresh ginger, finely grated or chopped
  • 2 nests of noodles (about 125g), slightly broken up to make shorter noodles
  • A couple of handfuls of frozen peas
  • A couple of handfuls of spinach, chopped
  • A small bunch of coriander, chopped (I use the stalks and leaves)
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Optional: Soy sauce and / or sweet chilli sauce

Method

  • Bring your stock to the boil and add the onion, ginger and noodles. Simmer and stir to break up the noodles.
  • After about 4 minutes of gentle simmering add the peas and spinach and simmer for a couple more minutes.
  • Finally, once the noodles are tender, add the coriander, lime and if you’re using them, the soy sauce and / or sweet chilli sauce. I recommend you have a taste before deciding to add the extra sauces.
  • Serve with as much or as little of the broth as you fancy.
Slurp and enjoy

The Most Delicious Falafel Wraps

Falafel Wraps

There’s the most fabulous place in Glasgow called ‘Falafel To Go’ which serves, almost exclusively, Falafels. They are absolutely delicious, served in wraps crammed with crumbled falafels, spicy and garlic sauces and a little salad. They are also wonderfully reasonably priced.

During this lockdown I’ve been hankering for this delight so decided to have a go at creating my own version at home. You can use any chilli sauce that you like – we love sriracha. I did make a quick and easy garlic sauce with a few simple ingredients but you could use shop bought or use garlic mayo if you like.

The groans of pleasure around our kitchen table told me these were pretty awesome in their own right, so here’s the recipe for you dear reader. Do try this at home.

Falafel Wraps

Serves 4 – 6, depending on appetite

Ingredients

  • 4 wraps (I used wholemeal)
  • 2 packets of ready made falafels
  • Spicy sauce of your choice (I like sriracha)
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • A couple of handlfuls of spinach or rocket

For the Garlic Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of Greek yoghurt
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
  • A pinch of salt

Method

  • Heat the falafels in your oven according to the packet instructions.
  • Meanwhile put a generous amount of chilli sauce, garlic sauce and salad on each wrap.
  • When the falafels are warm take out of the oven and crumble them a bit as you scatter them over each wrap.
  • Fold the wraps and either eat as they are or heat in a dry frying pan or griddle for a minute on each side to add a little crisp texture.